December 5, 2021

C’ville to resume enforcing sign law

A year after the town of Cortlandville stopped enforcing its sign law — following complaints of both selective enforcement and questions of its constitutionality — town officials conceded Wednesday they won’t have an amended law ready for this election season.

Instead, the town board voted, 5-0, to resume enforcing the old law.

Last year, residents were allowed to post signs supporting then-President Donald Trump, however people posting signs opposing Trump — with or without an endorsement of other candidates — were fined.

Further, the sign ordinance treated political signs differently than other lawn signs, although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 9-0, in the 2015 case Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, that sign ordinances cannot apply different standards based on content — such as standards for political signs that differ from signs with an ideological message, or offering items for sale or advertising a contractor.

Those questions came shortly after a disagreement over when lawn signs can be posted — 45 days before the election, under the law. The disagreement came over the interpretation of the start of the election with the institution of early voting.

“This board settled that by adding what the definition of the election day is,” said town Supervisor Tom Williams.

Still, amendments to resolve the other issues are not ready, he said, although the Cortland County Planning Board recommended approval of the law Aug. 13.

However, Williams said, “We’re not going to have that in time for this political season.”

The tabling of action was taken to give Town Attorney John DelVecchio further time to polish the language of the amendment.

The board voted, 4-1, to table action on the amendments. Board member Douglas Withey was the dissenting vote.